Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Ercildoune - a farm at Lyndhurst - the Hall family days

In this post we will look at the history of a farm at Lyndhurst,  Ercildoune, in Hall Road. It was occupied by the Hall family from around 1860 until it was put up for sale in September, 1917 and purchased by William and Mary McNab, read about them, here.

Frederick Hall was born around 1830 to William and Grace (nee Tucker) Hall. Fred married Elizabeth Hunt in 1849 in Brighton. Elizabeth was the daughter of George and Elizabeth (nee Newman) Hunt. Fred and Elizabeth had the following children:
1. Louisa (birth registered at  Brighton, 1850. Married James Close in 1867; died 1923)
2. Frederick (birth registered at  Western Port, 1857; died in 1857, aged 5 months)
3. George (b. c. 1859. Married Mary Annie Thomas in 1883;  died in 1929 aged 70)
4. William (birth registered at  Lyndhurst, 1859; died 1942)
5. Frederick (birth registered at  Lyndhurst, 1861. Married Emma Carol Gaunt in 1896; died 1942)
6. Elizabeth (birth registered at  Lyndhurst, 1864. Married Percy Teychenne in 1886; died 1892)
7. Emma (birth registered at  Cranbourne, 1866. Married Christopher John James in  1888; died 1941)
8. Susannah (birth registered at Cranbourne, 1868. Married Daniel Tierney in 1907; died 1955)
9. Fannie (birth registered at  Cranbourne, 1870. Married Thomas James Stephenson in 1891; died 1940)
10. Walter Henry (birth registered at  Cranbourne, 1873; died 1922)
11. Florence (birth registered at  Cranbourne, 1875. Married Richard Ernest Einsiedel in 1899; died 1962)
12. Alfred (birth registered at Cranbourne, 1878; died 1929)

The house on the property, is now surrounded by housing estates, but is owned by the City of Casey, who are looking at options for its future use. The property is on the City of Casey Heritage database and is listed as being constructed in c. 1888, 25 or so years after the Hall family arrived in the area and when the family obviously had some capital behind them to build a new house. The Heritage citation describes the house thus Aesthetically, it is significant as a superior and well-preserved example of a Victorian Italianate villa in a rural setting. You can read the citation, here.

We are fortunate that in 1893, Fred was interviewed by the Australasian newspaper, so we have some idea of his life and his farming methods. The article said  that Fred had been on his farm at Lyndhurst, for 33 years, which is 1860; however as one child was registered at Western Port in 1857 they were obviously in the area earlier.  Frederick Hall died in 1896 and Elizabeth died in 1916. They are both buried at Cranbourne Cemetery.

The Australasian  July 1, 1893

The interview with Fred is transcribed here and you can see it on Trove, here.

One of the most advanced and successful dairymen in Gippsland is Mr. F. H. Hall, of 'Ercildoun'e, whose farm is situated a few miles from Cranbourne, on the Frankston road. Mr. Hall has been engaged in dairying for probably a longer period than any other farmer in the colony, and on that account his experiences and the system he adopts in managing his herd are of exceptional interest and value. He arrived in Victoria when quite a young lad in 1833, and has, therefore, had sixty years of colonial experience. What a long time to look back, and what changes he must have witnessed in the development of the country. For the last thirty-three years Mr. Hall has been engaged in dairying on the farm where he now resides.

Although close upon seventy years of age Mr. Hall is still a robust, healthy man of fine physique, and a typical specimen of a jovial, burly yeoman. He performs some light work every day, either among the cows or in the paddocks, for he says he was accustomed to active employment in his early life, and complete idleness would soon kill him. His "yarns" about the digging days and the troubles of early settlement in the colony would interest many of those desirous of going on to the land to-day, and would prove to them that the present depression and difficulties are trivial compared to what they were before the discovery of gold in the fifties. "Times are considered bad enough now," said Mr. Hall, in our conversation, "but I have seen them very much worse." "I remember" he went on, "when quite a big, strong fellow, and able and willing to undertake any kind of labour, that wages
were far lower than they are now." He had worked as hard as any farm hand has to do now for 3s. per week and his keep, and he even ventured to marry on a salary of 15s. a week. Young men turn up their nose at such a wage nowadays, but Mr. Hall not only made progress but reared a family on it. Of course, the comparative value of 15s. now and fifty years ago are two very different things, yet it is refreshing to hear an old pioneer like Mr. Hall speak of the present dull times with a lightness of heart which indicates the great confidence he has in the future prosperity of the country.

The area of the farm is 250 acres. The land is all first-class, however, and above the average in quality of the soil in the Cranbourne district. It was originally pretty heavily timbered, but nothing like to the country further south about Korumburra or Leongatha. Similar land could be cleared to-day for about £6 an acre. The system of farming pursued is simple, but methodical. Nearly everything grown on the place is converted into milk and batter. A number of pigs and poultry are kept, but the chief pursuit is dairying. About 80 acres for hay are cultivated each season for the sole use and benefit of the cows, which are all fed liberally in their stalls throughout the winter, or whenever the grass becomes scarcer. Mr. Hall grows, also, a large quantity of green crops for mixing with the hay. At the present time there are about 10 acres of green fodder, consisting chiefly of barley and rye, ready for cutting, and which would, have been ready before now but for the dry autumn experienced. A continuous supply of this green feed is provided by sowing at different periods. A quantity of maize is generally grown for summer and early autumn feed, but the maize failed last season on account of the dry weather. When the maize crops are finished, a rotation of green barley, oats, or rye is available, and they are severally used for mixing with the chaff and bran ration. Mr. Hall has been farming on this system for years, and he finds it to be much more profitable than the usual plan of allowing the cows to dry off in their milk for want of feed.

As already indicated, the cows are exceptionally well provided for at 'Ercildoune' in the shape of food. Unless in the season when the grass is flush and verdant, they are liberally hand fed in the byre or shed at very considerable expense. Mr. Hall says that feeding the cows well is the only way—and he speaks from a long experience—to make dairying profitable. Yet the majority of farmers who make butter do not feed their cattle in winter. The question is whether they or Mr. Hall is right. I venture to assert that the latter makes most money at the business, and that surely is the main object, without discussing the relative cost or trouble attached to the two systems of feeding v. starvation. Mr. Hall also believes in providing shelter for his cattle. His milch cows are stabled every night all through the winter—a practice too seldom adopted in Gippsland, or any other part of the country. It involves a deal of extra Iabour and expense in cleaning out the stalls daily and in providing
bedding; but Mr. Hall has proved that the system pays better than allowing the cows to sleep out on the cold wet ground. He considers it is of little avail feeding a cow well, unless shelter is provided at the same time. Shelter, of course, is the equivalent of food, and the greatest abundance of fodder is wasted on any animal that is exposed to severe cold. Our own personal feelings tell us that in order to be well and healthy we must put on extra clothes in winter, and, further, that we will gain more benefit by the shelter and warmth obtained therefrom than by taking an extra quantity of food. Either man or beast is to be pitied who cannot secure sufficient clothing or shelter from the cold, and if we only consider how tender and sensitive an animal a milch cow is, the folly of expecting her to yield a large quantity of milk under such conditions is at once apparent.

The first immediate result of feeding and stabling the cows is the much larger quantity of milk they yield. Mr. Hall was at one time in the milk trade, but he now makes butter exclusively. Since he procured a cream separator he finds butter-making quite as profitable and easy as selling the whole milk. On an average his cows yield 8lb of butter per week throughout the year. The farmers who do not feed and shelter their cows obtain less than half of that return. If the cost incurred in the better treatment of the cows amounted to the value of the extra produce there would be no profit gained; but this extra expenditure Mr. Hall declares is all returned in the benefits resulting from the manure which is collected and applied to the land. The manure is the medium which enables him to produce heavy crops of hay, green fodder, and grass, and these in turn enable him to keep nearly double the number of cattle he could do otherwise. He, therefore, gets all the extra butter produced for
nothing, so to speak, and besides, from having so many more cows on the place, his aggregate returns and his profits are just about double of what they would be if the cattle were treated on the starvation system. It is easy to see from the good residence and steading, and the fine appearance of the farm generally, with everything in excellent condition, that Mr. Hall has prospered. He would assuredly have been a poor man still if he had not fed and sheltered his cows. Dairymen who follow his example will never, I feel sure, regret giving up the ruinous practice of starving their animals in winter.

When Fred died in 1896 his address in the death notice was Malvern Grove in Caufield. Family members worked the farm and in 1905 George Hall advertised the farm for lease. The ad below is from The Leader February 25, 1905.

In September 1917, the farm was put up for sale and it was purchased by William and Mary McNab, (read about them, here.) The sale advertisment, from the South Bourke & Mornington Journal  September 6, 1917, for the property gives some idea of what the farm was like at that time. You can read it here, on line, and it is transcribed below.

SATURDAY. OCTOBER 13 At the Homestead, on the Property at 3 o'clock To Dairy Farmers, Small Holders, Farmers, Onion Growers and Others SUBDIVISIONAL SALE (in the Estate of the late F.Hall), situated within two miles of Cranbourne Subdivided into four farms, homestead and 80 acres, and three farms averaging about 55 acres each Some of the best land in the Cranbourne district.  KEAST, MORRIS AND  MILES and STEWART AND WOOD (in conjunction) have received instructions from the executors in the estate of the late F. Hall to sell by public auction that -
Very Fine Property, containing 245 acres,subdivided into four convenient farms, namely, homestead and 80 acres of land, and three farms averaging about 55 acres each. The homestead block will be sold together with all improvements, consisting of a brick and w.b. house, large milking shed, hay shed, stables and numerous outbuildings. All the blocks have a frontage to a good metal road, and the land consists chiefly of beautiful black banks, nice undulating rises, and is considered by good judges to be one of the best farms in and around the Cranbourne district, being situated only about 2½ miles from the Cranbourne railway station, the land now being occupied by Mr Strong, whose lease expires within a short period. We would draw special attention to the sale of this land, which is very suitable for dairying, potato and onion growing, mangles and maize, and in fact all kinds of root crops. The district has a splendid rainfall, and is considered to be one of the safest in any part of Victoria. The property has been in the Hall family for very many years, and is now being sold to wind up the estate, and intending purchasers can inspect with confidence. Buyers will be met at the Cranbourne railway station, and shown over the property, by giving one day's notice to the auctioneers.Liberal terms will be given. Plans on application to the agents. For further particulars, or arrangements to inspect, apply Keast, Morris and Miles, 140-6 Queen-st., Queen's House, Melbourne; Stewart and Wood, Alexandra Chambers, 46 Elizabeth street, Melbourne.

I have created a list of newspaper articles on the Ercildoune property on Trove, you can access it here. All the articles referenced here are on the list.

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